“Dewey Bob Crockett was born in the pocket of an old pair of pants.” And thus opens the story of Dewey Bob, a fastidious little raccoon who loves to collect shiny things, but discovers how hard it is to find — not to mention keep — a friend.
Dewey Bob, both written and illustrated by Judy Schachner, was published just earlier this month, making it a great choice for our first Trendy Tuesday post of the semester. Schachner is best known for her best-selling Skippyjon Jones series, but she branches out into a new world of characters with Dewey Bob.
The adventure begins when Ma Crockett sends Dewey Bob into the world to find his own pair of pants to live in after his hoarded treasures weigh down the family pants too much. He finds a treehouse instead and sets about fixing it up and cleaning it out — very different from most raccoons in real life! Dewey soon decides that his apartment is lonely and that he needs friends, so he goes around throwing animals into his shopping cart in hopes of making them his friends.
Understandably, the animals all run away at the first chance they get, except for a mud ball in the bottom of the cart. Dewey begins to suspect the unresponsive mud ball isn’t alive until he gives it a squeeze — and it turns out to be a filthy baby cat (though Dewey incorrectly believes it is a puppy). Dewey cleans up the kitten, feeding and caring for him, and realizes his back legs are disproportionally short: that’s why the kitten didn’t run away like the other animals.
So Dewey makes the kitten a wheeled rig out of buttons to attach to his back half so the kitten can run on his front two feet. However much Dewey wants a friend, he realizes he needs to let the kitten be free to roam on his own. The book ends with Dewey’s poignant choice:
“But the truth is, the mud ball wasn’t a thing. He was a livin’, breathin’ critter who deserved to experience the world in all its splendor. And Dewey knew it. So first he opened his heart…and then he opened the front door. ‘Roll on, Mudball, roll on. And roll he did…right back into the arms of his very best friend.”
I actually had planned to do my Trendy Tuesday post on another book, but as soon as I read this final page I knew I had to write about Dewey Bob instead. The book introduces a lot of more complex themes (some of which might going over very young kids’ heads) but slightly older readers will enjoy this warm-hearted book — and mom or dad might find themselves tearing up a bit at that ending as they think about letting their own babies go.
Adults will also enjoy their own moments of humor, such as the pelican who tells Dewey “You should see what’s floatin’ in the ocean, Dewey!” as the raccoon searches through the trash heap. They will also recognize the front page of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine Dewey consults while renovating his treehouse.
Speaking of the magazine, the illustrations in this book looks almost like collages, and incorporate many photographic elements, adding lots of visual interests that will no doubt keep kids absorbed in the pictures. The front matter says that “the illustrations for this book were created in acrylics, gouache, mixed media, and the kitchen sink,” and that certainly seems almost true. The collage style of the pictures fits perfectly with Dewey Bob’s homespun character and dialogue.
Should I ever need a picture book library of my own some day, I would definitely consider adding Dewey Bob alongside other older classics from my own childhood. It’s a charming read that children and adults alike will thoroughly enjoy.
By Kara Sherrer